Hearing Problems with Voicemail

By: Linda S. Remensnyder, Au.D.

All of us, no matter what our age, can experience problems hearing messages on an Answering Machine and/or Voice Mail but the issue does get worse as we age. 

As discussed in my restaurant article, remember that as we age we have more difficulty hearing in background noise and more problems understanding fast speech, poorly articulated speech, and speech with an accent or dialect. Sure, there are expensive answering machines that can slow down the oncoming messages but the following guidelines are a better, and more reasonable, alternative.

Keep in mind that most often, the inability to hear voicemail or answering machine messages reflects the speaker not taking adequate care when leaving the message. The speaker may be speaking too fast trying to get the message delivered prior to the message machine disconnecting. Or the speaker may be distracted and, while looking away, fails to face his mouth directly near the telephone’s mouthpiece. Or the speaker may be calling from a noisy environment where the background noise masks /overshadows his voice.

What one needs is an easy solution that really works...

First, rerecord your own message and speak articulately and slowly yourself. All of us tend to pattern our speech to the speaker and the slower you speak and the more clearly you enunciate, so will the person leaving the message. 

Then, request additional clarity by prompting the person leaving the message to speak slowly.  A sample message I personally use is as follows: 

“Hi, this is Linda (or your phone number). I am sorry I am not available to take your call right now but please leave a message and remember to speak slowly.”

Then, as you prepare to listen to the messages, turn up the volume on your own phone and carefully place your listening ear for optimum reception

Lastly, cover your alternate ear with your hand or your index finger. This technique allows your brain to isolate its listening to the ear coupled to the phone. Music or other conversations confuse the brain and deteriorate the listening ear’s ability to zero in on the message.

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Linda S. Remensnyder - Healthy Living

Linda S. Remensnyder, Au.D., recently retired, founded Hearing Associates, a private practice in Audiology in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago, in 1980.  Dr. Remensnyder received her Au.D. from the University of Florida and was the first Doctor of Audiology in Illinois.  She holds board certification in Audiology from the American Board of Audiology and has served on the Board of Governors for that organization.

In 2013, she was awarded the Lake County Women’s Coalition Honors: Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination and in 2014, she received the Patient Advocacy Award from the Illinois Academy of Audiology.  Over the years, Dr. Remensnyder has published articles on hearing loss and hearing management in a variety of professional and consumer publications.

Linda resides in Lake Forest, IL with her husband, Larry, their rescue schnauzer, Webster, and a new cockapoo puppy, Bentley.